International Customs Operation DEMETER VIII Produces Significant HFC and HCFC Seizures

Polish Customs seized 1,239 non-refillable cylinders of ODS and HFCs ( HCFC-22, HFC-134A, HFC-507, HFC-23), containing 19,349 kg of refrigerants.

Operation DEMETER VIII, which took place from 1 to 31 October 2022, gave Customs administrations and their partners an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to playing their part in the fight against climate change.

The DEMETER Operations, the first edition of which dates back to 2009, are aimed at intercepting illegal shipments of hazardous waste, especially plastic waste, as well as ozone depleting substances (ODS) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that contribute to global warming and environmental degradation.

These commodities are regulated, respectively, by the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (the “Basel Convention”) and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (the “Montreal Protocol”).

The enforcement of these Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), which regulate cross-border movements of environmentally sensitive goods, falls under the remit of Customs which is mandated to control goods crossing borders.

By using risk indicators and focusing on pre-identified routings and hotspots during Operation DEMETER VIII, Customs officers conducted controls on suspicious shipments and seized illegal waste as well as ODS and other harmful gases. The preliminary results show that 139 seizures were made during the Operation, including the following:

  • 3,647 tonnes of waste and an additional 8,662 pieces of waste (unweighted)
  • 25 tonnes of substances controlled by the Montreal Protocol

There is no doubt that Customs plays a crucial role in the fight against climate change and the success of operations such as DEMETER clearly demonstrates that cooperation is critical in this domain,” said the Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), Dr. Kunio Mikuriya.

The WCO remains committed to supporting its Members in implementing MEAs, and regularly updates its relevant instruments so that Customs officers are appropriately equipped to perform their duties. The importance for Customs of using the latest edition of the Harmonized System (HS) should not be underestimated,” he added.

Operation DEMETER VIII, the largest in the series with 90 participating Customs administrations, was led by the WCO Secretariat, the Regional Intelligence Liaison Office for Asia/Pacific (RILO A/P) and China Customs, with the assistance of an Operational Coordination Unit based at the RILO A/P in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

In addition, the Operation was supported by the Basel Convention Secretariat, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) OzonAction, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the WCO-United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Container Control Programme, INTERPOL, Europol, the European Union Network for Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL), and the WCO RILO network.

Under the Kigali Amendment, Parties to the Montreal Protocol are now required to gradually phase down HFC production and use.

The WCO and its partners will continue to intensify their efforts to address environmental risks, with more enforcement initiatives planned for the future.